Neuropathic pain is a form of chronic pain that occurs as a result of damage, injury, or malfunction of the nervous system. Neuropathic pain is often described as burning, shooting, or stabbing pain. In some rare cases, neuropathic pain can also be acute.
According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), approximately 1 in 10 adults above 30 years experience neuropathic pain at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of Neuropathic Pain
The symptoms of neuropathic pain can vary from one person to another. The most commonly reported symptoms include:
- Shooting, throbbing, stabbing, or burning pain
- Pain that is triggered by non-painful stimuli (allodynia)
- Tingling, numbness, or a prickling sensation (paresthesia)
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature changes
- Redness or swelling at the site of pain
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
Chronic neuropathic pain can also take a toll on your emotional well-being, leading to irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
Causes of Neuropathic Pain
There are many possible causes of neuropathic pain. In most cases, pain is caused by an injury or an underlying medical condition. Some of the most common causes include:
Several medical conditions are known to cause neuropathic pain. They include diabetes, shingles, fibromyalgia, cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and complex regional pain syndrome. These conditions cause damage to the nervous system, which results in neuropathic pain.
A physical injury to the nervous system is another leading cause of neuropathic pain. This includes physical injuries, such as a car accident or a fall. It may also include chemical injuries, such as those caused by chemotherapy.
In some cases, surgery can damage the nerves and lead to neuropathic pain. This is most common in surgeries that involve the spine or the brain.
According to studies, long-term alcoholism can cause severe damage to the nervous system, leading to what is known as alcoholic neuropathy.
Phantom limb pain is a type of neuropathic pain that can develop after an arm or leg is amputated. In such situations, the brain continues to receive “false” pain signals from the missing limb, leading to chronic pain.
How is Neuropathic Pain Treated?
There is no definitive cure for neuropathic pain. However, numerous proven treatment options can help manage the symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life. Treating the underlying condition can also drastically reduce neuropathic pain. Common treatments for neuropathic pain include:
As with many other chronic pain conditions, pharmacological interventions play a significant role in neuropathic pain treatment. This includes over-the-counter pain relievers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and prescription medications, such as opioids and antidepressants.
Physical therapy can help to reduce pain and improve functionality. This can include exercises, massage, and electrical stimulation.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat neuropathic pain. This is most common in cases where the pain is caused by an injury or a medical condition.
Ketamine therapy is a newer treatment option showing great promise in treating severe chronic pain. Ketamine works by blocking pain signals, reversing pain sensitization in the brain, and reducing inflammation.
When it comes to neuropathic pain treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The best treatment will vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause of their pain.
Coping with Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be a difficult thing to live with. It can impact every aspect of your life, from work to personal relationships. Unfortunately, most conventional treatments have proven inadequate in managing chronic pain. Luckily, there are things that you can implement in your daily routine to ease the symptoms of neuropathic pain. They include:
Joining a support group: Countless support groups are available for people living with neuropathic pain. These groups can provide you with a sense of community and allow you to share your experiences with others. Through these groups, you can also find helpful tips and coping strategies.
Exercising regularly: Exercise can help improve your pain tolerance and reduce the effects of chronic pain. It is essential to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Adopting proper eating habits: What you eat can impact how your body functions in more ways than one. Eating a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to reduce pain and inflammation, enhance mood, and improve overall health.
Practicing relaxation and proper stress management: Chronic pain causes stress and anxiety, which can, in turn, exacerbate chronic pain. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can be instrumental in reducing stress and improving pain tolerance.
The Bottom Line
Neuropathic pain can be a debilitating condition that significantly impacts a person’s quality of life. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it is vital to seek help from a qualified medical practitioner. With proper treatment, most people with neuropathic pain can live a pain-free life.